Women financial managers in Bougainville

October 2, 2013

The finance training in Bougainville supported IWDA partners to build their financial management skills. Photo: Suzanne Fletcher
The finance training in Bougainville supported IWDA partners to build their financial management skills. Photo: Suzanne Fletcher

By Suzanne Fletcher, IWDA Finance Officer

Providing effective financial training is key to eliminating the barriers that women face when attempting to access financial services. Holding true to this statement, IWDA visited the Bougainville Women’s Federation (BWF) in Papua New Guinea to deliver practical finance training. Here we supported 15 women to move from shy participants to confident financial managers.

This year saw the start of a new program partnership between IWDA and the Bougainville Women’s Federation (BWF). Established in 2012, BWF supports the women of post-conflict Bougainville by coordinating women’s groups and promoting civil and political representation of women. Based in the temporary capital of Buka, BWF forms a collection of 13 district and three regional member organisations.

As this is the first year of the partnership, we are very focused on creating a strong base for the future. This foundation will provide staff and volunteers with the learning tools to increase their knowledge and support BWF’s future advocacy plans for women’s civil and political representation.

This year BWF successfully established a Secretariat, consisting of an Executive Officer, Finance Officer and Administration Officer. Building on this foundation, IWDA contracted MANGO (Management Accounting for Non-government Organisations) to deliver Practical Finance for NGOs: Getting the Basics Right. This training was provided to the treasurers of each district and the Secretariat, as well as two staff members from Wide Bay Conservation Association, another IWDA partner based in Papua New Guinea. The training lasted one week and was conducted in the training facility of the Nazareth Rehabilitation Centre in Bougainville. Altogether there were 15 participants, the facilitator from MANGO and myself.

The training was delivered with the support of a workbook and manual, and at the start, many of the participants were shy and reluctant to voice their opinions or provide answers to any of the questions we asked. But after many joyful games, role plays and activities, the women relaxed and were more open to learning in new and different ways.

As we all stayed at the Centre, ate our meals together and took part in the same training, we soon got to know each other well. Many of the women had not attended finance training before so it was a new experience for them. During the course of the week, it was possible to see the increase in confidence of the women. When asked at the end of a musical chairs game, “what are the tools of good financial management?” the answers stemmed from engagement and understanding rather than recitation.

On completion of the training, proud participants received a certificate of their achievement. We also attended a closing ceremony with the Minister for Women, UN Women and World Bank representatives, as well as the local radio station. The speakers were keen to share their wisdom, and urged participants to take their new found knowledge into their communities and teach other women their skills.

It was a wonderful opportunity for me to meet with and establish connections with the partners to better support them in the future. The following week, we were able to work on BWF’s financial processes using the tools provided in this workshop. What a success.